Gift Joseph Okpakorese
One of the most significant and talked-about election in the history of Nigeria’s electoral processes is that of the June 12th Presidential elections where late Chief M.K.O Abiola, emerged victorious but never lived to enjoy his victory, as lots of political confrontations ensued and later the general public was made to believe that he died of a natural cause of illness, to the bewilderment of most Nigerian citizens who had hoped he would become the first democratic president.
Recall that in the year he died, 1998, so many unique events took place; that was the year the late Pope John Paul the second visited Nigeria and had a dialogue with the late General Sani Abacha and implored him to serve justice to the people and free those who were unjustly detained because of his political ambition.
Chief Abiola, General Abacha, and even the renowned overseer of Church Of God Mission, Archbishop Benson Idahosa all passed on that year.
Before the assumption of power by General Sani Abacha who happened to be the right- hand man of ex-President Babangida, whom he took over power from, Babangida had unceremoniously canceled the people’s mandate given to MKO Abiola, in one of the freest and fairest elections ever conducted in the history of Nigeria.
Many years have passed by since that particular event which betrayed democracy in Nigeria. Now ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo has come out to reveal that June 12, 1993, presidential election presumably won by MKO Abiola was annulled because of, in his words, “bad belle”.
Recalling the event, Obasanjo said Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), who was a military ruler, was the one. responsible for the annulment of the election when he officially announced that the election was null and void.
Initially, as the election progressed, Chief Abiola, the Social Democratic Party candidate was leading Bashir Tofa, his National Republican Convention rival, by a wide margin, but the whole process was halted abruptly without any explanation, before the final announcement of results. The annulment of the election brought about so much chaos and controversies, as protesters took to the streets, venting their visible anger and calling on President Babangida to resign. Things got ugly, and Babangida had to hand over power to a civilian, Ernest Shonekan, and Abiola was later imprisoned by the regime of Abacha. He died while in detention.
Addressing a sociocultural organization of Egba people of Ogun State on Sunday, April 11th, 2021, after his investiture as a trustee of the Abeokuta Club, Obasanjo bemoaned the annulment, saying it was done out of “bad belle,” a pidgin word for jealousy.
Abiola was also awarded a posthumous vice-patron of the Club.
Obasanjo continued remarking that the revocation of the June 12 election results deprived the indigenous people of Egbaland the privilege of having three of its sons become president of the federation.
By these comments, Obasanjo was referring to Ernest Shonekan, former head of Interim National Government(ING), himself who ruled as military head of state and later as civilian president, Obasanjo added that Abiola would have become the third if the 1993 election was not annulled.
“When Abeokuta Club was in the process of being birthed, things in Abeokuta were not as rosy as they are today,” Obasanjo said.
“And the sons of Abeokuta, who were in Lagos, put their heads together in late Chief Sobo Sowemimo’s residence to think of what they could do to improve the development of Abeokuta as a city.
“I pay tributes to all those founding members, those who have departed this world, and those who are still here.
“I want to thank the club for this honor being bestowed on me and the honor being bestowed on my schoolmate, MKO Abiola, which he richly deserved.
“Kabiyesi, the Alake (of Egbaland) alluded to it. Normally, when you win a cup three times, you keep that cup. Isn’t it? If not for bad belle, Abeokuta would have produced President of Nigeria three times, in which case, we should have kept it permanently.
“But be that as it may, we have a great heritage. And we should be proud of our heritage. On this note, I will say on this occasion, I thank the President, the patron and grand patron, members of the Board of Trustees, the executive.
“I want to say this, I will continue to contribute my quota to the development and growth of this club and by extension, the development and growth of Abeokuta, of Ogun State, of Nigeria, of African and indeed the of the world in whichever way I could.”
Gift Joseph Okpakorese